There’s a wide range of Covid-Okay within the pandemic spectrum. Millions of stories and many emotions have surfaced. Definitions have been bending and fluid, and we just don’t know what Okay means anymore. My break from the standard Okay is very different from others- sometimes worse, sometimes better, or absolutely incomparable. Okay seems like it is turning into a lofty goal…or buoy…for many of us to swim to.
The push and shove of life paused as we floated in our collective traumas. We uncovered deeper injustices as we stayed still to witness another murder, the stripping of the barest of resources by zip code, and continued shocking inequities we knew were embedded in our systems…and in our own conditioning.
We said NO–This-Is-NOT-OKAY!… Together… Like never before. We got our oars and pushed the boats out…literally and virtually…into the Covid storm. Yet, it is still a long voyage to a Collective-Okay…with or without a pandemic.
The alarming number of trauma and compassion events online speaks to how damaged we really are, how much we have carried Okay as a badge of honor and not recognized it as the deficit it is. Our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and our adult traumas have forced us to survive in this uncaring culture, instead of a culture nurturing us to become aware that Okay is not an ideal human condition to strive for.
Within all of these complexities, I am grateful Covid-Okay showed up for some people in my life as literally Okay-Enough for them, even within situations that deeply hurt them. It is a spectrum of Okay-ness conditions in a wave we are riding on- treading in-or sinking under.
I and another friend can’t seem to tread the trauma water between major losses, funerals for people we love that we can’t quite fully attend, or initiatives and actions our communities need that can’t be addressed adequately from virtual-land where we have been relegated to. What CAN we do is the question that we consistently answer and act on in our balancing of Health-and-Justice-Okays.
It’s a struggle to define Okay Today. Tomorrow. Next Month…
I have a friend in his 30’s who loved a good Covid-19 conspiracy, until he struggled for life in the ICU suffering from it. His Okay is if he can breath today, access pain medication, or connect with people who can support him online as he struggles alone. His Okay-ness is tied to his ability or inability to access healthcare, consistent providers, and supporters he engages with online who help him fend-off attackers who think his experiences are exaggerated. I can’t imagine how un-okay someone has to be in their heart and mind to attack an ICU patient in isolation looking for connection as they face the ultimate Okay/Un-Okay tightrope.
Conversely, I have a friend who is More-Than-Okay during Covid. She’s got good reasons to isolate, stop her busy schedule, and look inward for awhile. She has her home, retirement, faith and a Well-Balanced-Okay to get her through. She’s embarked on long overdue decorating and personal tasks. She’s content with her luxury time to read, listen to music and watch new films. She’s A-Okay during Covid because she’s enjoying her time in introspection and reflection.
I have another friend who is desperate to see her children, family and friends. Her isolation makes her fears grow and her heart ache. She struggles to afford her living expenses, yet is too vulnerable to safely work with others. She’s Not-Okay with possible eviction, food shortage or lack of medicine. Her Okay seems miles away, daily. That should not be Okay with us.
Yet another friend has embarked on a brand-new career online and hasn’t missed a beat. She’s tech savvy and ready for the virtual shift. Her Okay is really an opportunity to Finally-Be-Okay by moving her attention and anxious energy into a new focus through a viral storm. We can’t know what might hit her after the pandemic, but during it she is Finally-Okay.
People who are on the Okay-Thriving-In-A-Pandemic spectrum can’t be held up
as the “goal or standard” measure for everyone else’s Okay-ness. Nor should an Un-Okay-ness be seen as a lack of “Positive-Covid-Okay-Mindset”. Abusers in the virtual-motivational-speaker-vampire movement who are feeding on the vulnerable “Not-Okay-and-Desperate” are swimming in the pool of traumatized humanity online like stealthy sharks. They are the religious, new age, spiritual or positive-mindset opportunists. STILL-NOT-OKAY.
Most of the stories I live, share or hear are those swimming in the Non-Okay storm waves of Covid. Waves of sadness, inequity, fear and trauma. Job losses, loss of healthcare, evictions, medical cost fears, and inability to support loved ones through health challenges, and other deep personal losses. Many are concerned for themselves or family in healthcare, grocery and warehouses, prisons and immigration detention, essential workers, nursing home workers and patients, those vulnerable by zip code or in safety services, or those in areas where protections and guidelines are nonexistent or simply not followed. Grief for family and friends of those lost to us in each wave. Calm, resilience, rage and despair all set the tone for us to redefine What-IS-Okay. Some of us are riding a wave, and some of us are drowning in a collective sea of trauma.
Parents students and teachers are forced into choices based on school policy, their work requirements or childcare options. Organizational officials, politicians and cities have to weave their way through science, access, resources, limitations and fear. They are pressured by egos, policies and greed. Ultimately, they remain responsible for every decision they make for others in these Covid-Not-Okay days.
Those with vulnerabilities at home choose safe isolation, or risk of exposure for a paycheck and health care. Those with a business to run feel forced to force others to make life and death choices for themselves or vulnerable loved ones. These systems we work in are, apparently, NOT-AT-ALL-Okay. Our value system behind the systems we have created are laid bare, and they are inexcusable.
I wonder if we are tracking what is and isn’t Okay? I wonder if we will have new measurements for our collective, and our own personal, Okay-ness moving forward? Will we have new standards for ourselves, government and employers? Will the new standard be “Okay” for more of us, or will we lower the bar to be just Grateful-We-Made-It-Through-Okay? Can we re-imagine Okay even as it is shifting precariously close to the edge? Maybe we will we rise to hold a baseline of Okay-ness to an ever higher standard that is equitable and humane? Can we dare to dream of a standard that lifts and secures us, and brings Hopeful-Okays to our hearts, minds, and neighbors?
Maybe our New-Okay will be reflected in probing questions we ask employers in future job interviews, in our voices for racial and social justice, in our votes, and our volunteerism. Maybe our New-Okay will be reflected more in how we spend our time and money, build relationships, and how we work to insure healthcare, justice and opportunities to flourish. Maybe it will recommit us to show up for ourselves and others in reaching a higher degree of Okay than we have settled for previously.
Are you Okay?
If you are, I feel you. I’m glad. Sometimes being Okay through collective trauma is Perfectly-Okay.
If you are not, I feel you. In my heart. Sometimes the thought of being Okay is Not-Okay.
May we measure Okay as it shows up for us, how we’d like it to be, and how we might need Okay to hold onto us moving forward. May our Okay-ness not be compromised by too much comparison or too much indifference.
If there is a Holy-Okay, I wish that for you.